You’ve Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

Thank you, lovely Pinterest followers for making the above image into my most popular pin.

Pinned 206 times as of this writing, it's the mantra I use to improve my teaching skills.

Every. Day.

Let's throw down the gauntlet and aspire to greatness.

Choose Wisely

When skill-building in the Pilates system we are faced with a never-ending series of choices.

It's a Pilates choose-your-own-adventure! The choices you'll make will lead you and your clients along the Pilates path in as direct a manner as possible.

OMG this is the Holy Grail for Pilates instructors.

It's a tall order, I know.

But time is on our side and they tell me Rome was not built in a day. We'll move toward our goal incrementally each day.

Success in the Pilates method is more marathon than sprint. Keep this in mind.

  • Day 1: you will plant the apple seed.
  • Day 2: you will not yet be enjoying a juicy apple!

Patience, grasshopper.

I choo-choo-choo- choose you

Joe Pilates has given us numerous opportunities to choose wisely.

Take a look around the studio.

In addition to our old standbys the Reformer and the Mat, we've got a trio of chairs and of barrels.

It's the collection of exercises on these 6 pieces of ofttimes peripheral apparatus that we can turn into one of our greatest assets. Within this grouping of chairs and barrels lies the perfect spot to work on a variety of connections for lots of different folks.

The Spring Remains the Same

At first blush, the work you'll do on the Chairs and Barrels may feel different from the Reformer and Mat exercises. But remember they are all part of a larger system.

All Systems Go

When viewed through the lens of the entire Pilates system the 3 Pilates Chairs and 3 Pilates Barrels become remarkably similar to our old friends the Reformer and the Mat:

For example, on the Chairs the springs are familiar.

  • They assist us.
  • They offer us support.
  • They remind us with a bang when we've gotten out of control.

We must use our lift and always aspire to close the spring with control.

This is the main objective of any apparatus with springs.

In Elephant on the Reformer you will close the spring.

Same for the Pull Up on the Wunda Chair.

I think I'm gonna like it here.

In comparison, the Barrels are bereft of springs and therefore more similar to the Mat. Like the Mat, they require you to fasten some of you into the apparatus while other parts of you reach long and away. The round shape of the barrel apparatuses allows gravity to work in our favor for a change.

The upper body reaches over the fastened in lower body in the Roll Up.

Arm Circles on the Spine Corrector again fasten you into a seated position while the upper body reaches back over the barrel.

We can get even more support here, and a template upon which to correct our upper backs, chest and shoulders.

Quite a nice little bonus.

Scrubbing Bubbles

I have found several exercises on the Chairs and Barrels that fall into the category of exercises I call “The Scrubbing Bubbles.”

What?

Yes, I'm always on the lookout for an exercise I can use to do my work for me.

Get ready for the Chairs and Barrels, friends…

We only have one exercise!

Arm yourself with the premise of the Pilates method and you are all set for a Chairs and Barrels choose-your-own-adventure!

Our mission:

To find the 2-way stretch at its most advantageous.

The Arm Chair

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

One of my favorite go-to exercises on the Arm Chair is simply the Arm Circles.

Small or big circles, the Arm Chair with its light springs really teaches people how to use their back muscles instead of their arms and shoulders.

And make no mistake, it is the Chair that is teaching the exercise. I am merely a guide. At first, this apparatus will be unfamiliar to the student. With repeated practice and time, you'll watch these exercises greatly improve, magically, before your eyes.

The Rowing Series (#3,4,5,6) is a frickin' dream here. The back of the Arm Chair is supportive and communicative.

The Rowing exercises on the Reformer will reap the benefits of diligent Arm Chair practice.

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

Photo courtesy of Fredrik Prag of Pilates Scandinavia

The High Chair

Going Up Front is an amazingly valuable exercise and the High Chair is a safe and sturdy place to work it.

Talk about lift!

The vertical orientation of the Chair communicates the 2-way stretch clearly.

The springs provide strong support and assistance to lift the pedal.

What goes up…

Must come down…

WITH CONTROL.

In opposition of the lift upward, here students can discover their lower body.

Now with a new awareness of the lower body, the student can begin to find their seat and sort out their hips.

Weaker sides rejoice!

And for those of us who are a bit unbalanced, uh… who have imbalances… (like moi) Going Up Front will provide years of challenge and entertainment.

Give it a go. Use your 2-way stretch to pull yourself apart at the waistline.

Reach begets lift.

The Wunda Chair

On the Wunda Chair you'll find one of the most effective tools for perfecting Footwork on the Reformer.

Whoopee!

It's quite a Scrubbing Bubbles exercise for me.

Footwork on the Wunda Chair

A combination of being upright plus the action of closing the springs as much as possible – and it is possible – greatly improves the work of the seat and the entire lower body.

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates ApparatusYou've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates ApparatusYou've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

And your Footwork on the Reformer will be the better for it.

Especially for the folks that overuse their legs in the Footwork on the Reformer and have a hard time finding length in the back (guilty), being vertical is amazingly helpful.

And you haven't really felt your scoop in Footwork on the Wunda until that pedal closes.

Oh, scoop…right…

Use your seat to get a smidge more lift upon pressing the pedal down and then really push that pedal away – resist it – as your stomach lifts in and up to close the spring.

Holy opposition!

I'm telling you, this exercise is golden.

The 3 Pilates Barrels

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

Yes. There are many kinds of exercises that can be done on these round apparatus, but I take my cue from the name of one of them: Spine Corrector.

Why are we here?

The answer to this question is very important. The name ‘spine corrector' is the key to understanding the purpose of working on all the barrels. They are all about opening: opening the spine, the chest, the hips, the shoulders. Correcting imbalances in the back.

Get ready for gravity to be your best friend.

The Barrels, especially the Small Barrel and Spine Corrector, pair beautifully with the Mat, which is also bereft of springs. In Joe Pilates' studio the Mat and the Spine Corrector/Small Barrel were constant companions.

Jay Grimes refers to the Spine Corrector exercises as a kind of coda to the Mat exercises.

They go together,
Like rama lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong
Remembered forever
As shoobop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom
Chang chang changitty chang shoobop
That's the way it should be, wha ooohhh
yeah!

Just for the record, Jay did not sing this to me…

The Small Barrel

I simply adore this little guy.

Both the Small Barrel and the Spine Corrector (depending on the body) are my favorite exercises to use to alleviate tension in the arms and shoulders.

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

The Arm Circles Series (including Breathing, pictured above) is a wonderful way to introduce students to their backs. They must have a powerhouse first of course, just look at that position.

How easy it would be to just lie back and let it all hang out, no bueno.

I love this series of exercises. It is simply brilliant at communicating (over time) that we should use our arms and shoulders less and find more lift and connection to the trunk of the body.

The waistline must lift as the arms reach – almost as though you could stretch yourself all the way over to the other side of the Barrel. Not just your arms, YOU. Lifted up. And over there.

The Arm Circles get my Scrubbing Bubbles vote!

The Spine Corrector

The series of 3 Mat exercises that are done on the Small Barrel and Spine Corrector are just wonderfully delicious.

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

Scissors, Bicycle and Shoulder Bridge are brilliant for teaching the long reach of the lower body. Men with tight thighs, hips and lower backs benefit so much from these 3 exercises.

I love this series for whittling away at those who cannot sit up in Spine Stretch Forward without being all bunched up in the hip flexors. Gradually the Spine Corrector will do all of your work for you.

Plus you've got the Thigh Stretch on the Mat for those peeps and the Tree!

Sigh…what was life like before the Tree?

The Ladder Barrel

The Mack Daddy of the Barrels, the Ladder Barrel does all the Spine Correcting of the other 2 smaller barrels by upping the challenge and being part jungle gym as well.

Here's another place to do the Tree as well as a challenging Backbend series that takes your Roll Up to a whole new level.

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates ApparatusConnection to the back? Check!

Lower Body Reach and your seat? You'd better get that together before approaching the Ladder Barrel.

The Ladder Barrel is truly the go-to place for success in the Swan. Gravity is your friend to find length in the back you never knew you had.

This is not an easy exercise and often it's no one's favorite. However, love for Swan on the Ladder Barrel is often found in perhaps the unlikeliest of places.

You've Peaked my Pionterest! 6 Indispensable Apparatus

Male client. 6'8″. Gratz Ladder Barrel. His fingertips literally touch the ceiling and he spans every inch of the Barrel. And. He. Loves. It.

It lights him up. He's got a lot of back to lift and lengthen as well. And he does it beautifully. Check out his Teaser here.

His Swan photo forthcoming…

Want to learn more?

Join me October 1-4 at Everybody Pilates, Portsmouth, UK and – poof! – this post will turn into a workshop!

You'll enjoy 4 jam-packed days of Pilates with me and Karen Frischmann who'll be debuting her new Masterclass format – exciting!! And of course, Amy Kellow and her amazing staff.

#Pilatesbestiesunite

Register today.

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Comments

  1. Great post, Andrea ???????? Thank you! Have fun in London! Someday I will join in…

  2. I love your writing. And enthusiasm for the Method. Keep these blogs coming, you inspire all of us lonely little Pilates teachers out in the middle of nowhere!

    • Awww… thanks Steph!
      I am so glad to give you a help and a smile – you don’t know how much this warms my heart. Please know if there is ever a topic that you’d like to see on the blog, just let me know. xo

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